TOKYO // Honda have warned that a disbanding of their Formula One team remains a possibility as negotiations continue with potential buyers. The Japanese car manufacturer announced its withdrawal from F1 in December amid the global economic slowdown and has since fielded interest from potential buyers in the team based in Brackley, England, without any firm announcements. Hiroyuki Murase, a Honda spokesman, said: "We are pursuing several potential buyers. But the team may still have to be disbanded if the negotiations fail."
Virgin Group, which belongs to the British tycoon Richard Branson, is reportedly interested in rescuing the team. "We would welcome them with open arms," the F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone was quoted as saying by Britain's Daily Mirror. "He's exactly the type of person we would want in the sport. Sir Richard Branson is a wonderful guy. I met him at Monza last year and we got on very well." Honda, who did well as an engine supplier in the sport in the 1980s, could not continue that success when it became a stand-alone team after buying out BAR Racing in 2005.
The Japanese team Super Aguri, who were supported by Honda, also pulled out of F1 in the 2008 season. Jenson Button and the rookie Bruno Senna, nephew of three-time former champion Ayrton Senna, were considered the likely drivers should a buyout occur in time to have the team ready for the 2009 season opener in Australia on March 29. The team would also need to find an engine supplier, with Mercedes considered the most likely candidate.